On Friday 25 of August 2017, Nick Di Savia, Dominic Jones, Andrew Trubshaw and I made our way to Queenstown, New Zealand to compete in one of the country’s premiere case competitions. The SDS International Case Competition, run by the NZ Student Development Society (SDS), brings together students from 12 of the best business schools globally to solve challenging consulting problems for both small and larger scaled enterprises. The QUT team, accompanied by our advisor Mr. Bill Proud, entered the departure lounge of the Brisbane Airport ready for a week filled with adventure, challenges as well as new and exciting experiences… We were certainly not disappointed.
Upon arrival in Queenstown, we were met by the Director of SDS, Mr. John Guthrie, who warmly and enthusiastically welcomed us into the beautiful town that would be our home for the next seven days. With the official competition not due to commence until the following Monday, the weekend provided an opportunity for our team to explore and discover Queenstown: the adventure capital of the world. To my delight (and Nick’s reluctance) we spent the first day skiing at the Remarkables Park. This proved to be an incredible, albeit painful, experience that was a truly special way to kick start the trip. Somewhat predictably, we spent the remainder of the weekend immodestly submersing ourselves in Queenstown’s epicurean culture.
Our weekend closed with a welcome dinner on Sunday night, which offered the first opportunity to meet and socialise with the other university teams. It was here, in a room buzzing with anticipation and excitement, that QUT case competition cult-hero Nick Di Savia cemented himself as the (unofficial) ‘social backbone’ of the competition.
Monday, the first day of competition… or so we thought. The day commenced at the University of Otago campus where we were split into random teams to take part in the infamous ‘SDS Crazy Case’. The Crazy Case is a consulting challenge as old and notorious as John Guthrie himself, renowned for outlining an unapologetically risqué brief. Each team was given a four page business case concerning a cosmetics company, which outlined the following question:
“How could [the company] encourage men to get naked and post about their product on social media?”
As you can probably imagine, the solutions proposed by each of the teams were equally as outrageous. The deserving winners, coached by none other than the godfather Mr. Bill Proud, shamelessly stole the judges’ attention with a live demonstration of their product offering. Without disclosing too much detail, this involved a rather masculine and shirtless member of the Norwegian team and a jar of peanut butter… Following this, the teams reconvened with their respective advisors and headed up the Skyline Gondola for an afternoon of overly-competitive luging.
Tuesday, and finally time to get down to business with the commencement of the formative component of the competition. The teams were split into two pools, with QUT selected in Pool-B to compete against Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), the University of Florida (USA) and three New Zealand teams. The competition comprised three unevenly weighted cases, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the finals. Case A was five hours with 10 minutes presentation followed by 10-minutes Q&A, weighing 35%. Case B was 1.5-hours with a five minute ‘elevator pitch’ followed by five minutes Q&A, weighing 15%. Case C mirrored the format of Case A, however weighed 50% of total scoring. The three cases were very distinct and proposed interesting business challenges.
Case A considered Wellington craft brewery ‘ParrotDog’, prompting teams to propose an innovative growth and expansion strategy for the company. ParrotDog has realised unprecedented and vastly unexpected growth in both sales and revenue, compelling the company to question their next ‘big move’. Fortuitously, a 35-page case on beer was precisely the stimulus team QUT required, the case room filled with creative and innovative energy. Our strategy focussed on leveraging ParrotDog’s customer-centric identity, connectedness with ‘craft subculture’ and NZ’s booming tourism market. We proposed a holistically customised brewery tour experience, underpinned by a strategic marketing campaign.
Case B considered a fictitious bid by the Queenstown Bidding Committee (QBC) to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. The task was to propose a strategy to showcase the Queenstown Olympic event as one to remember. The broadly articulated brief encouraged the teams to think outside-the-box, with the teams ultimately proposing a variety of innovative strategies. We focused our strategy and subsequent investment pitch in three distinct segments; before the games, during the games and after the games. Ultimately, we proposed:
- A light-rail network to cater for inevitable increases in transport demand;
- Virtual reality technology to revolutionise the customer viewing experience; an
- Detachable and re-relocatable stadium infrastructure to promote construction sustainability.
Despite a great deal of questioning from the judges, the feedback after the pitch was positive and the judges ranked us first place in Pool-B.
The company for Case C was the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC). The brief instructed teams to tackle two key questions. Firstly, how could QAC grow and diversify their ‘non-aeronautical’ revenue streams; and secondly, how could the company leverage their acquisition of Wanaka Airport to complement Queenstown Airport? We utilised the five hour preparation time very effectively, working cohesively and efficiently as a team. Our strategy focused on expanding the Wanaka Airport, aimed at relieving a large portion of domestic travel from Queenstown Airport, to accommodate the projected growth in international travellers. Further, we proposed a virtual reality interior fit-out for the Queenstown Airport to creatively and innovatively stimulate non-aeronautical revenues. Our strategy and final presentation was very well received by the judges.
QUT’s combined scores for Case A, B and C ranked us first overall in Pool-B, and we progressed into the finals. Upon being called upon to present second, QUT gave another confident presentation of Case C to a panel of judges that included the CEO of QAC. Confronting strong questioning from the judges, we had to heavily defend our expansion strategy and the value proposition proposed. Ultimately, the judges awarded us second place amongst 12 of the best business schools globally. First place went to HEC Montreal (Canada) and third to the University of Florida.
Overall, the SDS case competition was another well-organised, professional and enjoyable experience, which provided team QUT with an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow as young aspiring business professionals. Whilst provided with the opportunity to apply our business skills to real-world corporations, the competition enable us to connect and network with like-minded business students from across the globe. On behalf of the team, I would like to thank QUT for their continued support of the International Case Competition program as we endeavour to continue representing QUT stalwartly on the global stage.